Cigarette Butts – Toxic Menace

butts2Every year in cities across the globe, volunteers come together to clean up the coastline. In one such clean-up in British Columbia, more than 270,000 cigarette butts were collected. In Australia, cigarette butts make up 50% of litter pollution. In fact, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are tossed worldwide every year, making them the world’s greatest litter problem and a serious threat to the environment.

After I heard a PSA aired on Virgin Radio 99.9 raising awareness about this cigarette butt problem, I decided to investigate. Here is what you need to know:

Cigarette butts are not biodegradable; they are made of plastic and take about 10-15 years to break down. It is estimated that one third of the global population smoke. If you smoke a pack and a half a day, this amounts to 10,000 cigarettes a year, which is the equivalent of 5 cubic litres of waste. Worldwide the annual global consumption of cigarettes produces 2,800,000,000 cubic litres of waste. That’s enough toxin to kill a water flea at .125 butts per litre or about one butt per two gallons of water.  And don’t forget the thousands of species of wildlife that die from starvation, mistaking cigarette butts as a healthy and plentiful alternative.

Cigarette butt litter has increased since the ban on smoking indoors. Some cities like Windsor have a ButtsOut campaign, promoting the use of a personal ashtray. In Edmonton, the mayor is sick of the sight of cigarette butts everywhere and is considering a fine for smokers who litter.

Smokers, please, if you can’t butt out for your own sake, consider the environment. Temper the desire to toss your butts.

Client/Agency Relationships

Client/agency relationships were the topic of discussion at last night’s IABC‘s Munch n Mingle. Three case studies were showcased and each team demonstrated how important building a relationship is to the success of a campaign.

Presenters included Cathy Cowan, president of Cowan and Company and Ana Marie Atkinson from Casey’s Grill; Ken Evans, vice-president of APEX public relations and Kelly Harper, director, marketing head, retail investment products, BMO Financial Group; and John Thibodeau, vice-president, Media Profile and Cynthia Keeshan, manager, corporate communications and public relations, Microsoft Canada.

Cowan and Casey’s began working together in November 2006 to introduce a new prototype to Casey’s menu. The challenge was to acquire media coverage over a 12-month period. Cowan put together a month-by-month proactive media plan that was updated and revised throughout the year.

An open dialogue played a key role in the success of this campaign. Casey’s included Cowan in meetings with their advertising agency, updates and events with franchisees, the culinary team and suppliers. Keeping the dialogue open regarding the budget paid off. “When the Summer menu campaign and the Casey’s Cocktails campaigns were exceeding the initial planned scope of work, due to the higher-than-anticipated interest levels and success of the campaigns, we flagged this in advance and Casey’s decided to continue pursuing hot media opportunities to maximize coverage and in return decided to reduce activities planned for other campaigns in order to strike while the iron was hot and maximize overall ROI.” The new menu was a hit and sales took a favourable ascent.

BMO hired APEX to help them design a campaign for a new retirement savings plan for boomers. BMO and APEX found that early engagement and extensive research helped them focus on “target audiences’ attitudes about retirement and identify a course of action that would position BMO as the first and only financial institution to publicly recognize changing retirement attitudes, and as such shift the way in which this customer segment perceived BMO’s services.”

The APEX/BMO team says that “working collectively as strategic partners where the client integrates their outside PR experts into the planning process at the very beginning helps generate a wide range of advantages.” These included:

More comprehensive due diligence on the effect and influence of a new system, service or product on the target market

Takes the trial and error out of the equation

A more efficient strategic planning process better enables collective creativity and strategic discipline

Campaigns serve a purpose, but focusing on the cumulative effects of a string of campaigns or activities over a one to three year period is a better barometer of success

The last team, Media Profile’s John Thibodeau and Microsoft Canada’s Cynthia Keeshan delivered on a campaign whose objective was to “create a strong corporate citizenship communications strategy that positioned Microsoft Canada as a Canadian company that was committed to addressing uniquely Canadian concerns.”

They did this by setting up the following initiatives:

Digitizing libraries so that visually impaired Canadians have access to printed works

Bringing technology into children’s hospitals so that critically ill youth can stay connected with school, family and friends

Bringing technology to communities of “at-risk youth” like Jamestown in Toronto, where technology can inspire and get youth on the right track

Working with police to create technology solutions to help them apprehend those that seek to abuse children online

Media Profile and Microsoft Canada provided an extensive list of the importance of “true partnership.” I think it bears repeating:


Bring your agency to the table — too often clients use one person to brief the agency on everything that happens in their company rather than inviting the agency to the table to experience the full spectrum of the client’s business goals and working environment

Don’t be a “gatekeeper” — don’t shelter your agency from senior management. Build relationships and trust in both directions

Share information — overwhelm the agency with paper, briefs, industry research

Invest in long-term goals — strategic transformation takes time and won’t show results overnight. Trust in the process

Invest in the agency — build the bench strength and institutional knowledge of your team

Allow dissention (to a point) — agencies can provide their best insight if they are given permission to disagree with the client’s view sometimes. This includes providing critical feedback on how you work together


Learn the client and the industry — it may go without saying, but building expertise on every aspect on your client’s business and industry is crucial. Invest in that knowledge, even if you can’t bill for it

Welcome critical feedback — be open to criticism and respond to it quickly

Understand the client’s internal processses and challenges — success often depends on tailoring your work and recommendations to fit the client’s internal marketing and sales deadlines and to describing your work and succeses in language that resonates for your client

Understand your role — What is your role? PR results? Impressions? We believe that our role is something different — partnering with out client to achieve whatever measure of success he or she has defined

Lots of good information here for PR students. Hope you find it useful.

Obay or Not to Obay?

Obay or not to obay? — this is the question on people’s minds after the appearance of teaser ads in 24 cities over the past two weeks touting a new drug for parental control over their kids. 

Today, Colleges Ontario, the advocacy organization representing 24 colleges of applied arts and technology, stepped up to the mike and revealed their identity at a press conference at Centennial College’s Centre for Creative Communications, as they launch into phase two of the campaign. 

Designed to change parents’ minds about post-secondary education, Colleges Ontario conducted extensive research and identified “a lack of factual information and awareness of both the programs available at the college level, and the economic and personal benefits associated with them.”

President and CEO of Colleges Ontario, Linda Franklin says, “The message is to step back and find out what your children really want, and then look at all the post-secondary options together.” This research is supported by an increasing demand for jobs in fields like the information and technology sectors. 

So far this campaign, crafted by Smith Roberts and Co., has been a success and has spawned much WOM. Ads featured on transit shelters, interior shelters, billboards, bus sides, as well as radio and cinema ads have got people talking on Flickr, Youtube, Facebook and MySpace. Global National picked up the story and even The New York Times showed an interest.  Word of mouth spread and bloggers discussed whether Obay is a Scientology psychopathic drug, competition for ebay or some lobby against parents over-medicating their kids. On YouTube some nut in a balaclava argued whether radio ads were an effective medium for college students. 

Radio ads launched in London featured Teen Chat (1-888-you-obay), a helpline for kids: 

Thank you for calling 1-888-YOU-OBAY. There’s nothing worse than a child who won’t do what they’re told. You raise them, feed them, clothe them, sit through their violin recitals and how do they pay you back? They go ahead and think for themselves! It’s not right and it’s now what you had in mind . . . Thankfully, there’s Obay! A new remedy from the makers of BecauseIsaidso and Notundermyroof. So order your supply of Obay today . . . because YOUR wish is YOUR command!

 This 1-888 number is active and received many calls from people praising the campaign to one duped pharmacist in Vancouver wanting to purchase the drugs.

This creative also includes a Facebook component (Obay Campaign) and a microsite for depth of sale, featuring polls, questionnaires and bios of affluent people like Elio Pacheco, a graduate of George Brown College and president and general manager of Evian North America.

Now that phase two has officially launched, how successful will this campaign prove to be? Buzz has been created, but has the target audience been reached? And how will parents feel about being labeled as controlling, drug-pushing, closed-minded caregivers?

Flick Off, Canada

Earth Hour has gone global this year, reaching out to more than 17 cities across six continents. Toronto is representing the house Saturday, March 29 between 8 and 9 p.m. and needs one million people to make a difference. Will you turn your lights out?

In fact, Toronto is the only Canadian city to partake. Whaaat? Perhaps other Canadian cities share the belief that this is nothing more than a cheap media stunt, an empty gesture that will amount to nothing. But the World Wildlife Fund suggests that it is a global action that involves people from many continents who share a dream — to stop global warming. It is a sign of recognition that change needs to happen. It is a sign to the world to listen up.

Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia, last year. The WWF reports that 2.2 million people turned off their lights that night. Sydney targeted for a 5 per cent quota in energy savings, but the city exceeded expectations and rose the needle to 10.2 per cent. This amounted to a savings of 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide or 48,000 cars off the road.

Ryerson Professor Randy Boyagoda, who appears on CBC Radio’s Think Tank Thursday mornings on Sounds Like Canada, thinks these numbers don’t tell us anything. “This is no different from reading in my newspaper that if I buy this washing machine, it will save 25 hectares of rain forest.” What he wants to know is, once we turn out the lights, “how much of  this is offset by the cost of turning everything back on again?”

What do you think? Is this merely a photo opp. for Mayor David Miller, who will be pulling the plug on the CN Tower? Or is it the kind of campaign that will change how people think? Change consumers’ attitudes and behaviours? Will it kick start the government into action? Will it stop them from fannying about with “we need more information” excuses? How will you spend the hour?

I’m having a fondue night with a few friends. One of us will play some music on an acoustic and it’ll be well past the hour before we’re into the chocolat. But isn’t that the point of this campaign? To think past the hour. Isn’t this hour in darkness a time to reflect on how we’re going to reduce our footprint on the planet? The longest journey begins with a single step — Lao Tzu.

Find out how you can make a difference.

Earth Hour

Watch this space for an upcoming blog on Earth Hour. What will you be doing March 29 at 8 p.m. in the dark?

To find out how you can get involved, check out Earth Hour in the links sidebar.

“Earth Hour uses the simple action of turning off the lights for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action,” says main organizer World Wildlife Fund, Canada. — Saturday Star, January 19, 2008.